Like any very, very pregnant woman, I hit the home stretch of pregnancy and was OVER IT. Luckily, once my 40th week rolled around, I didn't have to wait much longer. I always had a feeling our baby would be born past her due date so I tried my best to gear up for the long haul. In fact, I was kind of shocked that she showed up only three days late.
On Tuesday, July 31, I went to bed around 10pm. Even though I slept well my entire pregnancy, I woke up every two hours with lower back pain. I'd shift around, attempt to get comfortable and after a bit, fall back asleep. It did not occur to me that I was sleeping through what I now realize was early labor. That said, I highly recommend sleeping through as much labor as possible.
When I woke up on August 1 at 5am, I had the period-like cramps that everyone who’s been through labor tells you about, and it finally occurred to me that this might be the real deal. But maybe not. Maybe I just ate something that didn't agree with me. I contemplated whether or not I should go to work--in other words, despite recognizing that I was probably in labor, I was in denial, big time. But just to safe, i decided to start timing these alleged "contractions."
When I started timing the contractions, they were about 8-10 minutes apart and mild. Hower it was clear they were 1) happening in regular intervals; 2) getting closer together; and 3) becoming more intense. I still didn’t believe it, but I decided that i was uncomfortable enough that I wouldn’t chance going into work. I wrote my boss a whackadoo email that went something like:
Hey boss,I was wrong. I managed to get a few emails sent, maybe I proofread something--who knows at this point--but by 8:30 contractions were strong enough and close enough together that it was concentrating on work became impossible. I rolled around on our exercise ball to manage the "pain," which worked really well for these early, still not so intense contractions. In between, I chatted with friends on the google, and finally, after accepting that my probably real contractions were around 5-6 minutes apart, I reluctantly called my doctor.
I think I might be nearing the end of the road here, but I'm not sure. I might have just eaten something that did not agree with me. I don't think I'm going to be rushing to the hospital any time soon, so I will just work from home today and keep you posted.
My doctor was not in denial. "I don't think you need to rush out the door right now, but you should leave for the hospital within the hour." So I can be told that I told that I need to turn around and go back home? I took my time. I ate a bagel; I drank some coffee (yes, I drank coffee through my entire pregnancy, and it wasn’t decaf); I rolled around on the exercise ball; and I took a shower and finished packing my bag. By the time MM and I headed out the door an hour or so later, my contractions were becoming more intense and less than 4 minutes apart. Um, so maybe this was the real deal.
By the time we got to triage 25 minutes later, my contractions were closer to 3 minutes apart and I was increasingly uncomfortable sitting in the waiting room with half a dozen other pregnant women. It was a busy morning for labor and delivery. My name was finally called, and was checked. At four centimeters dilated, being sent home wasn't happening and the baby was officially on her way. I was admitted around 11am.
Still in triage, while waiting for my labor and delivery room to be available, the nurse asked me if I was planning to get an epidural. Yes, I told her, but I wanted to wait as long as possible before I did. That turned out to be not so long. By the time they were ready to move us into the room where Emme would be born, they asked again. At this point, I was in pain. The contractions had intensified, and I had little break between them. The answer was still yes, but now as soon as possible please.
As far as getting an epidural goes: Early in pregnancy, I entertained the idea of having a natural birth. But the more I thought about it, I decided I needed to be honest with myself about... myself. I am a huge whiner. I hate being uncomfortable, much less in pain. I have no doubt that I could give birth naturally if I had no choice, but I did and I knew that giving birth could easily be an extremely unpleasant experience for me and MM if I didn't have pain medication. I had my reservations about the whole needle in the back thing and the potential side effects--at one point during pregnancy I was completely terrified by this--but by the time they took me to our labor and delivery room and the anesthesiologist arrived, I was hanging onto the nurse, breathing rapidly through intense, long and close together contractions. They could have told me they had to stick the needle in my eye and I would have let them (eh, maybe not).
They make husbands leave the room when you get the epidural, which I was prepared for, and didn't matter one bit once the time came. By the time he came back, I was numb from the waist down and in much better spirits. We settled in for what I assumed would be the long haul. We turned on the Olympics, I continued to chat online with friends, providing updates, made some phone calls and even napped. All in all, it was much like hanging out in a hotel room, except that I was in a hospital gown and had an IV in my arm.
The End is Near
Things progressed quicker than I expected. I was checked again around 1pm, and I had progressed to six centimeters dilated. The doctor checked the position of the baby and realized that her face was turned to the left. I was put into various positions to help the baby turn her head so she was facing down. Everyone left for a period of time, and MM and I just relaxed. Around 4pm I told the nurse that the pressure "down thar" was getting more intense. I was checked again and was told I was 10 cm dilated, the baby turned her head the right way, she had dropped more, and yep, it was time to push.
I had been gearing up for marathon labor. I had expected to be dodging threats of interventions along the way, and here we were--five or so hours after being admitted--ready to push, the word “pitocin” never even uttered. I knew that we could still have a long road ahead--some first time moms push for as long three hours, but there was light at the end of the tunnel... uh, literally.
For all the research I did, one thing I did not expect was how difficult and tiring pushing would be. The nurse gave me a “how to push” tutorial; my doctor showed up; and we got down to business. I pushed in three different positions, including squatting, which I didn’t realize was possible with an epidural. It was exhausting. But finally, after an hour and 10 minutes of pushing, Emme was born.
And that was it. Emme came out screaming and perfect. MM cut the cord. And, she was immediately placed on my chest. I didn’t cry; I laughed. We are so lucky that we have a birth experience that wasn’t scary or traumatic. I don’t know at what point I’ll be ready to do it again (if ever), but I am truly thankful that I had a complication-free pregnancy, labor and delivery and, most importantly, a healthy baby girl. I know none of this should be taken for granted.